Tintin's 70th Birthday

photo: le select montparnasse
The bohemian's home away from home; Le Select
in Montparnasse.

Euros and Taxes Are With Us To Stay

Paris:- Sunday, 10. January 1999:- While hardly earth-shaking, today is Tintin's 70th birthday. His creator, Hergé, was not around to celebrate because he died at 76 in 1983.

Of the 23 published albums, with translations in 58 languages, some 200 million have been sold and most likely read by more than one reader. About three million more copies are sold each year.

This is not bad for a freelance comic-strip author and designer, who was asked for a serial character in 1929. The request was for 'un petit bonhomme avec un chien,' and Hergé thought of a 14 year-old reporter who was mainly a Boy Scout.

Over time Tintin became 15 years old. The talking dog, Milou, was essential; but the grand success of the character and of the long series, was due to the fact that Hergé was able to write stories - which he did about everything that interested him; himself being a sort of Belgian Boy Scout too.

Hergé did one final good thing: his will stipulated that with his death, there was to be no continuation, no 'new' Tintin stories. No 'Tintin forever'-type stuff.

However, with Asterix coming to the big screens in February, Tintin may not be far behind. Can you see Leonadro di Caprio as Tintin and Sean Connery as Captain Haddock? If you can, then look around for a talking dog to play Milou and let the producers know about it.

The 'Euro' Cheque Scam

Five days after we started living with the new 'Euro' and the banks are already kicking us in the teeth about it. Sincephoto: window 'little' kids Monday it has been possible to get and use chequebooks designated for 'Euros.'

However, if one absentmindedly forgets it is a 'Euro' cheque and semi-automatically writes "quatre-vingt-deux mille six cent vingt-cinq francs et 51 cts" on it, one will get a hundred franc 'fine' from the bank.

High-end kids clothes are almost affordable at 50 percent off.

This kind of thing is not called a 'fine' but 'frais,' which means service- charge. French banks have not been able to impose service-charges on residents for writing simple cheques, and something like two-thirds of all transactions are done with them.

There is a forest of service-charges surrounding every other sort of activity short of breathing, so dreaming up a dumb one for the 'Euro'-launch week is no surprise.

Let's say you have a spare million of something and you don't want to keep it around the house. You take it to a bank, essentially to lend it to them, and they offer you one of their 'products.'

Along with some mysterious government taxes, you will see that you are being hit with a 'frais du dossier,' which is like saying 'a charge for the paperwork.'

This is like going to the supermarket and being charged a dollar for the cash-register receipt, or maybe a five-centime charge for punching your ticket when you get on a bus. The possibilities are endless and a lot of them are already in operation in France.

Design News

So many ideas come to us from America, so this is not a French story. Yesterday's Le Parisien, in its usual Saturday automobile feature, has a photo of a new Chrysler model, set to roll out of showrooms next year - 2000!

This new car, called the PT Cruiser, looks like a 1938 Dodge, sans running boards, but with a '50's style waffle-iron grill. Le Parisien has correctly placed it in the '30's too. What is not said is that this is a rip-off of VW's 'new' Beetle imitation; so I guess I should correct myself, except that I heard the VW's look was cooked up in California.

But, isn't something strange going on here?

Volkswagen is a German company and I think I read that Mercedes- Benz bought Chrysler recently, and Mercedes is German too. Can it mean that German auto manufacturersscan: mag: der spiegel are going to conquer world markets with retro California designs; ones looking more than vaguely like late '50's hotrodder dreams?

Does this mean that brand-new cars will take over the choice spots at next month's 'Retromobile' Salon in Paris? Who knows?

The Germans abandon 'Euro- skepticism,' with Der Spiegel's French revolutionary image.

There's a long lead-time in the car-design business even if the marketing guys are looking backwards. When a ball like this gets rolling there will be a flood of '30's-like cars.

Meanwhile, right this very minute, in a secret design studio in Pismo Beach, a crew of teenagers are busily working on a 'new-but-old' 1965 Mustang while another crew in Texas is doing the Shelby 350 GT fastback model. To be in a showroom near you, in 2001.

Now Some Bad News

On Monday, without any plausible reason, the French government is going to raise the tax on all vehicle fuels, except GPL. Tax already accounts for 83 percent of the street price for gas; and this is at a time when the raw stuff is at a market low.

Only about 100 thousand vehicles roll with the low-pollution GPL in France, and market experts put a cap on the total possible market at one million units - for some technical reason such as it costs too much to make it or something.

A pocketbook reason for not buying a GPL-fueled car is the extra price - about 10,000 francs - for the setup and the fact that there aren't many places you can get the fuel, and nobody has any capacity to make a lot of it.

The official reason for the tax hike is that it is an 'ecological' tax. If the tax were cut to 43 percent, I could afford to buy a bike.

Paris - The Zoo

If you see a wild-looking lion roaming around the Champs-Elysées, do not be alarmed. According to a report, about 1,000 wild animals are successfully captured in Paris and the Ile-de-France every year.

Apparently the firemen - 'les pompiers' - have a special brigade - 'les equipes cynotechniques' - specially trained to recuperate wild animals. They are also dog catchers, but they will also go after pythons and other large serpents.

Just over half are returned to their owners, about a quarter go to the SPCA and the rest are divided up between the Ecole Vétérinaire at Maisons-Alfort and the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle. Only about one percent are bumped off for being too dangerous or poisonous.

Sports News - Football

Le Parisien's lead story yesterday, on pages two, three, four and five, was about the Paris PSG football team. After listing thephoto: shop cafes confiseries star players who may not be participating in the crucial match against 'Les Verts,' the headline nevertheless proclaimed the team was entering a 'New Era.'

This is not a café, but a shop selling different coffees and teas.

This marks the 735th 'New Era' since I've been reading the paper, which is not all that long. For some reason the outcome of last night's game has escaped me and all I remember are the TV-sports shots of blurry figures playing in a blizzard in Marseille.

Being from a country where it may snow a bit in winter, I've seen football played during snowfalls before, but this Marseille scene was not just a little bit of snow - the whole field was white.

I guess they played - skidded around - because of the TV contract. While snow is hard on the TV crews, there is still something to see even if it looks a bit like outdoor hockey with a big puck.

Best of all is dense fog; between the commercials the screen is flat grey and the sound is muffled, because fans in the stadium can't see anything - not even the cheery commercials - either.

Winter Sports News Roundup

Since winter seems to be bearing down on us and we have switched from too little snow to too much within a week, I am going to wait until the situation stabilizes before not doing any further reports about it.

Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini